Puzzling EU actions will really disappoint China

By Wei Jianguo Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/30 21:43:40

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

Italy, France and Germany have jointly asked the European Commission to tighten existing rules to give EU member states greater flexibility to ban foreign takeovers of European companies, according to recent media reports. It goes without saying that these rules would target Chinese investment.

Those who are committed to promoting friendly cooperation between China and the EU may feel puzzled and even disappointed about several recent EU moves, of which some are particularly perplexing.

First, during the preparations for the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held from May 14 to 15, China had hoped that some EU leaders could attend the conference, but various EU leaders said they were too busy with national elections and others said they were unavailable for other reasons. In the end, no head of state from the EU, China's largest trading partner over the years, attended the meeting.

Second, after Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Europe from May 31-June 2, no joint China-EU communiqué was issued. The Chinese people were not concerned about this because they always believe action is more important than words. However, the signal sent by the EU is worth thinking about.

It should be noted as well that China's complaint regarding the WTO hasn't received any response from the EU. We hope that the EU could honor and fulfill the promise made in Article 15 of the protocol on China's accession to the WTO, but the EU has resorted to new "tricks" to block Chinese companies and products from entering Europe.

Third, the EU has recently made many efforts to stop Chinese companies from investing in Europe. The most striking example is the high-speed railway linking Hungary and Serbia, which will be a land-sea passage from the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea. China has already built two high-speed rail projects in Africa and a number of high-speed rail links in South Asia. But the EU shelved the project for assessment on the grounds of opaque investment in the Hungary-Serbia railway. The EU also reportedly intends to intervene in the South China Sea dispute. All such actions make us wonder whether or not the EU is willing to continue friendly cooperation with China.

Taking a peaceful development path, China has put forward the Belt and Road initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and other initiatives. I sincerely hope that the EU can treat these China-proposed initiatives the same way as they treat the AIIB. I don't want to see the EU do something harmful to the development of Sino-EU relationship.

Many people have asked me: Is the Sino-EU relationship going forward, standing still or going backward? I have always said "going forward." But I am quite upset with what the EU has been doing. What caused this?

First, some EU leaders still have a Cold War mentality and are arrogant about the rise of China, leading to certain misjudgment of China's behavior.

Second, against the background of US-led anti-globalization, unilateralism and protectionism, China and the EU should assume the responsibility of maintaining global multilateral trade rules and reconstructing the international economic governance system. But it seems that the EU doesn't have much enthusiasm for these tasks.

Third, and most important, the EU thinks too highly of itself and has made many misjudgments, interpreting China's friendly actions and mutually beneficial cooperation initiatives as requests. This is definitely a negative factor for the Sino-EU relationship.

The EU should be clearly aware of its "internal and external difficulties," which call urgently for reform and opening up as well as unified thinking internally. Externally, the EU faces pressure and challenges, particularly from Brexit. Its trade relationship with China also faces resistance and competition.

At present, the growth in Sino-US trade has far exceeded that of Sino-EU trade. If the trend continues, China's largest trading partner will no longer be the EU in 2017, but the US. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations or even Africa may overtake the EU's position in trade with China in 2018.

We hope that EU leaders could think clearly about the future of Sino-EU relations, strengthen cultural, technological, tourism and innovation exchanges to achieve mutual benefit and win-win results for both parties.

In the face of US claims on climate change and trade, it is China that came forward to support the EU. China and the EU should be friends, not adversaries. We don't want to see the EU once again lose the opportunity to be surpassed by other countries in terms of politics, economics, trade and other areas.

The author is executive deputy director of China Center for International Economic Exchanges. bizopinion@globaltimes.com


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